"The designation of Timor Leste as Ireland's seventh programme country is a recognition of the tremendous progress made to date in this young and vibrant democracy, which was born in tough circumstances. It represents Ireland's commitment to assisting the new Government in reducing poverty, building capacity and promoting good governance and human rights in these crucial early years" - Kitt
President Gusmao warmly welcomed the deepening commitment of Ireland to assisting Timor Leste and paid tribute to the extent and quality of assistance provided by both the Government and the people of Ireland over the last few years. During the course of his visit, Minister of State Kitt also met with the Prime Minister Alcatiri and a wide range of representatives of Government, civil society, the United Nations and Irish and international NGOs.
During his meetings with the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and the Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Forces, Minister of State Kitt discussed the security situation in Timor Leste. While the security situation has improved generally and the local Timor Leste police and defence personnel are being trained, a number of recent incidents underline the fragility of the newly established democracy.
Minister of State Kitt said:
"The UN operation in Timor Leste is a clear success story and an example of the value and importance of the United Nations in bringing protection and humanitarian assistance to those most in need, while also facilitating the building of a new democratic nation. It is heartening to witness first hand this multinational force doing what it does best, making and keeping the peace. I wish to pay tribute to all those who have served so well in Timor Leste, including many from Ireland."
Minister Kitt travelled with the Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Forces to Taroman in southwest Timor Leste, where the Irish Peackeepers have served. He laid a wreath in memory of Private Peadar O'Flaithearta from Lettermore, Co Galway who died while serving in Timor Leste with the UN. Private O'Flaitherta was a member of the 1st Infantry Battalion.
NOTE FOR EDITORS:
Ireland Aid (the official aid programme of the Irish Government) established a Representative Office in Dili, Timor Leste in November 2000.
The new Ireland Aid Timor Leste Country Strategy covers the period 2003-2005 and provides for funding of over €11 million.
The core objective of the new aid strategy is to assist the Government of Timor Leste and civil society to achieve the vision set out in the National Development Plan, to reduce poverty through the delivery of essential social services (health, education) and to assist in the strengthening of good governance and human rights.
Timor Leste suffers from a chronic skills shortage particularly in key areas of the public administration. With oil and gas revenues expected to come on stream in 2006 it is essential that the Government be assisted in key technical and administrative sectors ahead of the challenges which will be posed by the additional revenues. Ireland will assist in building the capacity in the public service, but will also be involved in the longer term development of the educational sector.
The new Country Strategy will be evaluated in 2005 prior to any further funding decisions being made.
Ireland now has seven programme countries namely Zambia, Tanzania, Uganda, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Mozambique and now East Timor. Programme status means a heavy commitment in terms of funding and focus. It means a concentration on building the capacity of Governments to deliver basic social services in a transparent and accountable manner and also assists in the building of a culture of good governance and human rights. Without strong, democratic, accountable and capable government, lasting poverty reduction is not possible.